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Trigeminal Neuralgia

(Tic Doleureux)

Definition

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve 5) that causes severe, shooting pain along one side of the face. The trigeminal nerve senses touch, pain, pressure, and temperature. It also helps make saliva and tears.

The Trigeminal Nerve

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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

In TN, pain usually lasts for less than a second to a few seconds and may come and go for days, weeks, months, or years. It may go into remission or stop completely for months or years between attacks. Over time, the attacks may become more frequent and more severe.

Causes    TOP

In most cases, the cause is unknown. In some, it may be caused by an abnormally formed artery or vein near the nerve. The blood vessel can compress the nerve and cause problems. Rarely, TN may occur as a symptom of another underlying disorder, such as:

Risk Factors    TOP

TN is more common in women aged 50 years or older. Having certain medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or high blood pressure may increase your risk of TN.

Symptoms    TOP

The main symptom is searing pain on one side of the face. The pain may be felt inside the mouth or in the lips, cheek, chin, nostril, ear, or near the eye. Rarely, pain may occur in the eye or forehead. Twitching or wincing sometimes accompanies the pain.

The pain is typically sudden, severe, and stabbing. Even though the pain is brief, usually less than 2 minutes, it can reoccur hundreds of times a day. Attacks can become totally disabling. They may seem to occur at random or be triggered by extremes of temperature, washing, shaving, touching, or tickling the face. There are usually no symptoms between attacks, except perhaps a dull ache.

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may have an electrophysiologic test called a trigeminal reflex test. Other tests, such as a CT scan or MRI scan can take evaluate the head and surrounding structures.

You may be given antiseizure medication to help diagnose the disorder.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Medications

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Antiseizure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Nasal sprays
  • Injections

Surgery

Surgery may be an option if medications fail to relieve symptoms. Microvascular decompression removes an artery or tumor that is pressing on the nerve. Other procedures may be used to cut the trigeminal nerve.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent TN.

RESOURCES:

American Chronic Pain Association
http://www.theacpa.org
The Facial Pain Association
http://fpa-support.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

CaTNA—The Canadian Trigeminal Neuralgia Association
http://www.catna.ca

References:

Chole R, Pati R, Degwekar SS, Bhowate RR. Drug treatment of trigeminal neuralgia: a systematic review of the literature. J Oral Maxillfac Surg. 2007;65(1):40-45.
Gorgulho A, DeSalles A. Trigeminal neuralgia: impact of radiosurgery on the surgical treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. Surg Neurol. 2006;66(4):350-356.
Kalkanis SN, Eskandar EN, Carter BS, Barker FG 2nd. Microvascular decompression surgery in the United States, 1996-2000: mortality rates, morbidity rates, and the effects of hospital and surgeon volumes. Neurosurgery. 2003;52(6):1251-1261.
NINDS trigeminal neuralgia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 30, 2012. Accessed June 28, 2013.
Pollock BE, Ecker RD. A prospective cost-effectiveness study of trigeminal neuralgia surgery. Clin J Pain. 2005;21(4):317-322.
Trigeminal neuralgia. American Academy of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2012. Accessed June 28, 2013.
Trigeminal neuralgia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 29, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2016.
Viel M. Pregabalin for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(7):808.
11/29/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Kanai A, Saito M, Hoka S. Subcutaneous sumatriptan for refractory trigeminal neuralgia. Headache. 2006;46(4):577-582.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 6/2/2014

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